Alabama Mercedes-Benz Workers Vote 'No' to Unionization, a Tough Loss for the UAW

By Trisha Andrada

May 18, 2024 02:21 AM EDT

Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama voted against joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) on Friday, casting doubt on the ability of the union to unionize factories in the southern United States.

According to Mercedes-Benz, out of the counted ballots, 44% of workers favored having the UAW represent them, while 56% voted against unionization. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said there were over 5,000 eligible voters.

Employees inspect Mercedes-Benz C-Class cars at the Mercedes-Benz US International factory in Vance, Alabama on June 8, 2017.

UAW Aims to Support Autoworkers in the South

The South's economic activity has grown in recent years. Many multi-billion dollar investments in electric car and battery manufacturing facilities are going to states such as Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. According to the New York Times, these factory employees are the ones the UAW wants to support.

The UAW's "Stand Up Strike" campaign, which included simultaneously disrupting the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford), garnered unprecedented publicity and record contracts for workers. The union hoped to continue its positive momentum with the Alabama vote.

Read Also: Governors in 6 Southern States Warn Workers Against Joining UAW Union, Say Unionization Places Jobs in Jeopardy

UAW Vows to Carry on and Continue the Battle

In a news conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Friday, new UAW president Shawn Fain said setbacks are inevitable, and the union will continue on its campaign.

"Not the result we wanted today, but I'm very proud of these workers," he stated, as CNN reported. In a press statement, Fain added that the Alabama workers still achieved significant victories in this campaign. 

"They raised their wages with the 'UAW bump.' They killed wage tiers. They got rid of a CEO who had no interest in improving conditions in the workplace," Fain noted. "Mercedes is a better place to work thanks to this campaign, and thanks to these courageous workers."

The "UAW bump" is when non-union firms give non-unionized workers raises to compete with union contracts.

In a statement, Mercedes-Benz US International (MBUSI) said its goal in this process was to make sure that each "eligible Team Member had the opportunity to participate in a fair election" and to provide a "safe and supportive work environment" for these workers "so they can build superior vehicles for the world."

"We look forward to continuing to work directly with our Team Members to ensure MBUSI is not only their employer of choice, but a place they would recommend to friends and family," the company added.

Last month, governors from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas issued a joint statement discouraging the unionization campaign. The six governors warned that it could jeopardize workers' jobs and the auto industry in the South. 

Read More: Alabama House Approves Bill Targeting Businesses That Voluntarily Recognize Unions Without Secret Ballot Elections

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